Fringe offers something for everyone

Managing director Julian Caddy

Managing director Julian Caddy

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Eleven shows from Australia, eight from Ireland, seven from the US, six from South Africa, four from the Netherlands and three from France keep up the international flavour at this year’s Brighton Fringe.

Also in the programme are shows form Spain, Sweden, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, Iceland, Canada, Finland, Palestine and Portugal – all grist to the mill for a fringe which also boasts 35 per cent locally-produced events.

It runs from May 1-31 (brightonfringe.org), and managing director Julian Caddy is serenely calm at the thought of the 780 events coming up.

“Calm, always calm!” he laughs.

“We are probably around 30 to 40 events up on last year. Bit by bit, it is slowly getting bigger. I think you are always happy when it gets bigger, but at the same time you don’t want it to run away from itself.”

It’s certainly not a question of achieving an ideal size: “The size is the size it is, but the important thing is to find an audience, and based on the past four years or so that I have been around, audiences have gone up by 70 per cent.”

Julian puts the success down to a combination of two major venues: “The Warren and The Spiegeltent have certainly brought us up to a level in terms of visibility and created a market that seems to be increasing. It means that as a festival we really do have something for absolutely everyone.”

The international aspect is important, but equally so is the fact that a third of the shows have their roots in the area. Also important is the fact that it offers something different from the Brighton Festival.

“The Brighton Festival have an emphasis on excellent and have a very carefully curated programme that reflects that. People going to Brighton Festival shows will be look for that when they go there. Oftentimes that means that ticket prices are higher than for the Fringe, though not always so.

“What the Fringe offers is a completely-open access offering where anyone can put on a show. We have got a great combination of the very best of the best and also lots of groups and schools and university groups and new graduates, people just trying things out for the first time.”

The point is that it is open to everyone, particularly given that more than 250 shows are completely free.

It’s a festival that won’t turn performers away “within the realms that they are legal and that they have the permission of the venue, and that they respect the health and safety considerations.”

If it’s politically on the edge, then bring it on. If it’s near the knuckle, then just make sure that the audience are fully aware of just what they might be seeing.

“I really hope it doesn’t come across as elitist. With the arts for decades, the public has had the feeling they are the preserve of the wealthy, a feeling that many people can’t actually afford to go along and take part in the parts. The Fringe is about wanting to redeem that and to restore the balance.

“Our vision is to be an internationally-acclaimed open-access arts festival and year-round professional resource, that stimulates, educates and develops audiences and artistic communities.

“We will achieve our vision by bringing people together and acting as a catalyst for creativity.

“We believe in equality and respect for all. We are transparent, honest and trustworthy. We are friendly and professional. We are open and responsive. We enjoy what we do.”